Nielsen’s Ronjan Sikdar on Maximizing Data with Rhiza

By Nielsen Data InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Nielsen’s Ronjan Sikdar on Maximizing Data with Rhiza

Pulling together multiple data sets in one dashboard often winds up being a massive pain point for marketers.  Comparing those data points, drilling down to tease out more information and visualizing them are even more complicated.  Then there’s the challenge of exporting all of that information into a format that tells a coherent story.

To address all of these issues at once, Nielsen recently launched Rhiza (pronounced Rise-uh).  Using it is simple and fast.  Customers login and start a new analysis, select a few fields such as which data sets they want and which criteria they care about (e.g., local markets, demographics, etc.) and then run the report.  Much of it is customizable; marketers can even change the graphs to their company’s color scheme.  The full report can then be exported into a downloadable PowerPoint presentation.

To learn more about how Rhiza works and why it matters, MediaVillage sat down with Ronjan Sikdar, Vice President and General Manager of Nielsen Rhiza.

David Berkowitz:  What is Rhiza’s background?

Ronjan Sikdar:  Rhiza was founded about eight years ago by a group of ex-Carnegie Mellon folks in Pittsburgh.  It’s always been a flexible data visualization and insights platform, but the team focused on different data types, from government to non-profit to media data.  The common thread? There’s a lot of big data out there and there are a lot of ways to get caught in the constant analysis loop.  People think, “It’s going to take three weeks to put together this cool report.  How can I make it easier to find a story in real time that I can refresh over time?”

Rhiza was acquired by Nielsen in February 2017.  It’s a team of software developers, data engineers, product leaders and designers.  I joined the mix at the beginning of this year to play the role of connector with other parts of Nielsen.  My background is in the analytical practitioner world.  I’m a stats guy at the core.  For someone like me, seeing this kind of technology and what it can do for the analytical process is very exciting.  Rhiza makes it simple, and advanced researchers can dive deeper because it makes the process of discovery, trend-seeking and repeatability less arduous.  Whether it’s Nielsen’s data sets or your own data sets, you can you pull them all together into one place.

Berkowitz:  Why the name Rhiza?

Sikdar:  The name is related to “rhizome” [underground plant stems that spawn roots].  Good data visualization is the root of good decision making.  If you get the root right, the plants and foliage are all byproducts of that.

Berkowitz:  Do any kinds of data sets not make sense for this?

Sikdar: If you have a lot of modeling or calculations, it makes sense to do those manipulations first before getting Rhiza involved.  You want the output to be in a place where Rhiza can visualize and show it fast.

Berkowitz:  How do customers get access to it?

Sikdar: Rhiza is a web-based application that works in conjunction with other Nielsen products and first-party data.  For example, Rhiza offers clients that use Nielsen Scarborough for behavioral and local qualitative analysis, a new way of looking at the data.  We do have some situations where clients only want access to one set of data and they just get a license for that.  The access can change based on client needs and preferences.

Berkowitz:  Is there any limit to how much of your own data you can upload?

Sikdar:  Just your imagination, in the philosophical sense.

Berkowitz:  If you wanted to visualize data before using Rhiza, what would you do?

Sikdar:  Some of our data sets have some level of visualization hard-coded into their delivery platforms by the teams who build them.  Traditionally for Nielsen, the data in which we deliver the marketplace were not easily visualized.  With Rhiza you have more flexibility in how something can be visualized.  You can build any visualization you want against any dataset you want.  It’s a common language for visualization that can be used for multiple data sets, and it’s a way to pull together disparate datasets into one insights dashboard.

Berkowitz:  What kinds of clients are gravitating toward this?

Sikdar:  Rhiza has been appealing to local TV and local radio stations.  As we continue to integrate more data sets and demonstrate the ease of use and flexibility of the platform, it will become clear to more types of clients the value we have here.

Berkowitz:  What’s an interesting way that a customer has used Rhiza?

Sikdar:  We looked at some of our spending data coming out of our Nielsen Buyer Insights -- credit card spend data -- and we mapped that against retailer footprints: "I’m retailer X with store locations in 50 locations.  Show me a heat map of sales for each location, and show me how I’m performing relative to my competitors by zip code."

We have had similar success with automotive data for TV and radio clients as well.  Rhiza can create a heat map of their local TV and radio station audiences, auto dealership locations, what the dealer has sold, and the number of buyers at the dealer.  This allows media owners to show sales locations mapping to tell strong media stories.

Berkowitz:  You've held quite a few roles at Nielsen during your 14-year tenure.  What is it that keeps you excited to keep pursuing new challenges internally?

Sikdar:  There are always new roles and new challenges out there working at Nielsen.  I started out effectively as a data scientist in our new product innovation practice and I did that for four years.  I then did a long stint -- about nine years -- in our digital analytics practice.  Now, with the ability to take on a recently acquired startup and be able to lead it, the role has evolved with different competency areas and clients, with different types of people I’m working with, and so many new skills to test and learn.

For me, it’s ultimately the serendipity of it all.  I don’t know what’s in store over the next few years, but I know there’s going to be something cool.  There’s always going to be something new, fun and impactful to work on.

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